The Hippodrome Theatre in downtown Gainesville, Photo by KlipschFan via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0
Gainesville, Florida is a very active city with tons of things to do. Much of the activity is provided by the University of Florida that makes Gainesville its home. There’s a lot of nature and a pretty cool downtown area, too. If you’re lucky enough to spend four years of college in Gainesville, you should definitely check out these places and fun things to do before you graduate.
Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park
100 Savannah Blvd., Micanopy, FL 32667
Paynes Prairie is a 21,000-acre savanna on the south end of Gainesville. It’s a beautiful, unique expanse of nature containing many different animals, including wild horses, bobcats, alligators, and a variety of bird species. The most commonly visited area of the park is the observation tower. It stands 50 feet high and offers a panoramic view of the park. Your Instagram isn’t complete without a photo of the sunset from the Paynes Prairie observation tower! If you continue past the observation tower, you’ll find the visitor center, which can offer you information about camping, biking, hiking, fishing, horseback riding, canoeing, and kayaking. You can also visit the Florida State Parks website for more details.
Florida Museum of Natural History
3215 Hull Road, Gainesville, FL 32611
Located directly on the University of Florida campus, the Florida Museum of Natural History holds an inspirational collection of exhibits that’ll open your eyes to the biological diversity and cultural heritage of the past and preserved through the present. In 2017, the museum made history itself by celebrating a historic 100-year anniversary since its establishment. This museum is one of the best natural history museums, ranking in the top five of the nation. There are eight permanent exhibits, including the Butterfly Rainforest — a living exhibit featuring hundreds of free-flying butterflies and birds. It’s a must-see exhibit, along with many other amazing installations.
Kanapaha Botanical Gardens
4700 SW 58th Drive, Gainesville, FL 32608
If you’re looking for something to do in Gainesville that will help you relax and harness your Zen, you should visit the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens. These beautiful gardens span over 62 acres bordering Lake Kanapaha. Within the garden, you’ll find water features, an arboretum, a picnic area, walking trails, a rose garden, a herb garden, a vinery, and much more. You can plan an independent visit to this public garden or take a guided tour. Guided tours are offered the first Saturday of every month starting at 10 a.m. and lasting approximately two hours. For more information about the gardens, tours, and garden events, visit their website.
Flowers at the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, Photo by Ebyabe via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 3.0
Most college students are familiar with the party scene of Midtown, but don’t make it all the way to downtown where there’s even more to do! Downtown Gainesville is full of surprises, from build-your-own cupcake shops to gourmet restaurants, to vintage clothing shops and live music venues. There are coffee shops, book stores, yoga studios, hair salons, and lots more. Getting to know downtown Gainesville simply requires taking the time to explore the area. Park your car in one of the public parking lots and take a walk around the area. You’re bound to find something interesting! During the evenings, you can enjoy nightlife, concerts, theatre, and many other activities downtown. For a preview of everything you can find downtown, visit the Downtown Gainesville website.
25 SE Second Place, Gainesville, FL 32601
The Hippodrome Theatre, also known as The Hipp, is a professional theater and the cultural centerpiece of Gainesville. The venue offers live theatre, films, gallery exhibits, classes, and special events. The Hipp provides a nurturing place for artists, actors, directors, and designers while providing the community with outstanding and dramatic performances. You can sign up to take an art or acting class, visit the art gallery, or purchase tickets to watch a performance on their main stage. Upcoming performances are detailed on their event calendar.
Harn Museum of Art
3259 Hull Road, Gainesville, FL 32611
On UF’s campus, right next to the Florida Museum of Natural History, you’ll find the Harn Museum of Art. The facility encompasses 112,800 square feet — whose art-filled walls and exhibit spaces you’ll want to explore for hours. The Harn’s collection includes over 10,000 objects of African, Asian, modern, and contemporary art, photography, historical works, and other art styles. In addition to art, there are five garden spaces, a 250-seat auditorium, a study center, a gift shop, a cafe, and classroom spaces. Guided tours of the museum are given at no cost, but a donation is suggested. Information about the current exhibits can be found on the Harn Museum of Art website.
Harn Museum of Art, Photo by (WT-de) Mistoffeles via Wikimedia, CC BY-SY 4.0
Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park
4732 Millhopper Road, Gainesville, FL 32653
Devil’s Millhopper is a miniature rain forest right inside Gainesville! The state park is characterized by lush vegetation, flowers, waterfalls, and trickling streams within a 120-foot-deep sinkhole. The geographical landmark is quite peculiar and has been studied by researchers since the early 1880s. A visit to the park can include hiking, wildlife viewing, picnicking, and sightseeing. There’s a half-mile nature trail around the rim of the sinkhole and a 232-step stairway to the bottom of the sink. To plan your visit, view the Florida State Parks website.
All of these places are unique to Gainesville and can’t be found anywhere else! If you’re looking for things to do in Gainesville this week or weekend, be sure to check out one of the locations on this list.